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Chinese coral: A red treasure carved with legends

A symbol of luck, passion and joy, red coral, or "shānghuī" in Mandarin, holds a special place in Chinese culture. Its vivid colour and unique nature as a cross between animal, plant and mineral have fascinated artists and fuelled many legends.

Orange coral branch, China, 20th century, appraised by Gauchet Art Asiatique for Nice Enchères, sold for €5,800

Coral has been appreciated for centuries for its beauty and symbolic properties. Its blood-red colour evokes passion, luck and joy. Coral is finely sculpted to create statues of divinities, mythological figures, animals and flowers. These sculptures, which are often small in scale, can be extremely complex and delicate. They are often displayed on wooden or ivory bases.

Orange coral group, China, 20th century, appraised by Gauchet Art Asiatique for R&C auction house, sold for €3,000

Chinese coral sculptures are precious works of art, coveted by collectors. Their value is determined by several factors, including the size and weight of the coral, the intensity and homogeneity of the colour, and the finesse of the carved subject. Coral is also used in jewellery and as a decorative element. It is said to have protective virtues and to bring serenity and inner peace to its owner.

Hairpin, China, 18th century, kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in England

Coral, with its unique structure and life in the depths of the sea, has inspired many legends in China. It is said that the branches of red coral were once trees that were transformed into precious stones after being touched by the blood of a dragon. Today, coral is a species threatened by marine pollution and climate change. The increasing scarcity of coral makes Chinese coral sculptures even more precious and coveted.

Snuff bottle, China, Qianlong period (1736 - 1795), kept at the MET in the United States

Chinese coral is a fascinating and precious material that occupies an important place in Chinese culture. Its refined and symbolic sculptures are evidence of an ancient and precious art. Cabinet Gauchet Art Asiatique specialises in the appraisal and valuation of Asian works of art, including Chinese coral. Our team of passionate and experienced experts is on hand to help you determine the authenticity, value and origin of your coral sculptures.



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